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TV’s Dermot O’Leary talked to Square Meal about the Fishy Fishy brasserie chain he co-owns with two friends, his film projects, and how Simon Cowell really is a nice guy. Here are 10 facts you might not know about the X-Factor presenter:
O’Leary spent his spare time as a teenager working in a restaurant, doing everything from washing dishes to prepping the food.
I really did think about doing my qualifications to become a chef, and it was fully my intention to get back into it some time after university [O’Leary studied media and politics at Middlesex University].
You might catch him in the restaurant now, but he doesn’t think of himself as a good waiter.
What I’m good at is doing that classic thing where you get a glass of wine, walk around and see how everyone is doing! But the minute anyone wants anything…
O’Leary doesn’t do flowery restaurant concepts.
We’ve just got very simple principles: we make sure we don’t dick people over on the price and we make sure we look after people. And hopefully we get that right 10 times out of 10.
He loves fishing – and fish – and is passionate about sustainability.
My two favourite fish are John Dory and mackerel, which we get a lot of. The restaurant’s cod is all gill-netted, so we know it’s sustainable.
Despite a poll by New Woman magazine placing O’Leary in its top 40 of the sexiest men on the planet, he reckons his partner of nine years, TV producer/director Dee Koppang, isn’t
I sincerely hope she takes it on board and figures out how lucky she is! Unfortunately, she sees me first thing in the morning, so she knows the reality. You take it all with a pinch of salt.
Koppang is partly responsible for the interior design of Fishy Fishy. You’ll have to head to the toilet to see
any glimpses of O’Leary’s day job. There, framed on the wall, is a menu signed by Chatty Man’s Alan Carr.
‘Dear Fishy Fishy, delicious! I’ve never been so pleased to have crabs!’
As far as O’Leary’s concerned, presenting isn’t something anyone can do.
It always frustrates me slightly when people say, ‘I’m a singer; I might give presenting a go.’ What you find is that if you work hard and tell people – not brazenly – what you want to do, you will invariably get the chance to do it. Then it’s up to you whether you can do it or not.
The auditions stage of The X-Factor is his favourite part.
There are some great moments, like when the show unearths someone and everyone goes, ‘Wow! Fantastic!’ I love the different characters that turn up. The lunacy of the show is brilliant.
According to O’Leary, Simon Cowell’s got real talent.
It’s only when you work with him that you realise how good he is. And also what a nice guy he is. He’s genuinely magnanimous. He’s not nasty, but there’s also this fallacy that he doesn’t like music, and he’s probably said that in interviews with his tongue firmly in his cheek. He probably likes money more, but he really does like music.
O’Leary and his girlfriend are collaborating on an adaptation of Gypsy Boy, gay traveller Mikey Walsh’s autobiography, which they hope to turn into a film.
A fuller version of this interview was published in the summer 2011 edition of Square Meal Lifestyle. View the online
Fishy Fishy picture © Kate Howell.